The Agora
Bible Commentary
2 Corinthians

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

2 Corinthians 5

2Co 5:1

NOT BUILT BY HUMAN HANDS: Cp ideas, Dan 2:34,45; 8:25; Mark 14:58; Col 2:11; Heb 9:11.
On the other hand, the idea of being "made with human hands" is demonstrated in Mark 14:58; Acts 7:48; 17:24; 19:26; Heb 9:11,24.

2Co 5:2

GROAN: Cp Rom 8:23.

HEAVENLY DWELLING: "House which is from (Gr "ek", out of) heaven" (KJV). Cp "our life hid with Christ" in Col 3:3,4; Phi 3:21; 2Ti 4:8; 1Pe 1:4,5.

2Co 5:3

Vv 3,4: The ideas of "nakedness" and "clothing" seem to be borrowed from the garden of Eden: where the clothing, or "covering", is an atoning sacrifice for the sins of our first parents.

NAKED: An intermediate state of dissolution between one "house" and another: ie death.

2Co 5:4

2Co 5:4.

TENT: Or "tabernacle" (KJV), a temporary, transient dwelling, sig the mortal state (cp Jam 4:14; Job 7:5,6; 14:1,2).

CLOTHED: A putting on of immortality: cp 1Co 15:53,54.

WITH OUR HEAVENLY DWELLING: These words have no counterpart in the Greek mss -- an interpolation of the NIV translators!

2Co 5:6

Vv 6-9: The antithesis presented by these two words comes three times in 2Co 5:6,8,9; and these are the only occurrences. The key to the situation lies in recognizing that here, as in 1Co 12 (often) and 1Co 10:16,17 and Eph 1:23; 2:16; 4:4,12,16; 5:23,30 and Col 1:18; 2:17,19; 3:15, "body" signifies "the body of Christ, the ecclesia". There is here an indication of the tension which must often have existed in the mind of Paul, and which is not unknown in the experience of men a good deal smaller than Paul -- the desire to go into retirement and seclusion in order the better to enjoy the spiritual stimulus and satisfaction which Bible study and the Truth in Christ can impart. In Paul's case, it could mean more than this -- the enjoyment of personal (not mystical) fellowship with Christ through the "visions and revelations of the Lord" which at times he was privileged to experience. But as long as Paul was busy and active in the ecclesias ("at home in the Body"), such blessings were necessarily cut to a minimum. At such times esp Paul walked by faith, and not by sight (2Co 5:7). The apostle's own much stronger inclination was the other way -- to be "absent from the Body" (in retirement from his heavy ecclesial responsibilities), and so free to be "at home (in a very real personal fashion) with the Lord". However, Paul accepted life as it came. He was content for Christ to decide how his life and activities should be spent. Accordingly, he made it his ambition, "whether present or absent", for his life to be such that in the Last Day he would be "well-pleasing unto him".

2Co 5:8

AWAY FROM THE BODY: That is, away from the natural body, and having been rewarded with a spiritual, or immortal, body -- as at the judgment (v 10).

2Co 5:10

WHILE IN THE BODY: Perhaps "in and for the Body of Christ"... not just in one's own body! Lit, "in order that each one may receive the through-the-Body things according to (?) what he did whether good or bad."

2Co 5:11

MEN: Including alien Gentiles (Act 14:15).

2Co 5:14

See 1Co 15:29: we show forth Christ's death -- as Paul did -- by dying daily (2Co 6:5-10). Cp Rom 14:8.

See Article, Constraining love.

2Co 5:16

FROM A WORLDLY POINT OF VIEW: "After the flesh" (AV). Did Paul know Jesus during his days of mortality? Cp 1Co 9:1,2. See CGal 18.

2Co 5:17

IN CHRIST: Only through baptism (Rom 6:3; Gal 3:27,28).

NEW CREATION: Moral regeneration: Tit 3:5; Eph 4:24. Not a new nature, but new thoughts and feelings and actions: cp Psa 51:10; 2Co 4:6; Rom 7:22; Col 3:10. See "new things": Psa 40:17.

2Co 5:18

ALL THIS IS FROM GOD: God is the prime mover in our salvation, working through His special Son. It is God's redemptive plan: not for our merits, but for His purpose to manifest Himself in a host of redeemed ones. He and His beloved Son did it together, in order to declare God's righteousness: My Father is right! His way of the cross is right!

2Co 5:19

GOD WAS RECONCILING THE WORLD TO HIMSELF IN CHRIST: There was no difference between the motives of the One and the motives of the other; they were together. The old man Abraham and his son Isaac, who "went together" to the altar on Moriah (Gen 22:6,8), are the express pattern of the Heavenly Father and His Son who, together, go to the cross! (Notice how Paul in Rom 8:31,32 quotes Gen 22:12; and how, incidentally, Abraham -- a man -- actually typifies the Almighty!)

2Co 5:20

AMBASSADORS: Paul considered himself Christ's ambassador -- an authorized representative of a sovereign. He speaks not in his own name but on behalf of the ruler whose deputy he is, and his whole duty and responsibility is to interpret that ruler's mind faithfully to those to whom he is sent. Paul used this "ambassador" image twice -- both in connection with his preaching work (Eph 6:18-20; 2Co 5:18-20). Paul called himself an ambassador because he knew that, when he proclaimed the gospel facts and promises and urged sinners to receive the reconciliation God provided through His Son, he was declaring Christ's message to the world. The figure of ambassadorship highlights the authority Paul had, as representing his Lord, so long as he remained faithful to the terms of his commission and said neither less nor more than he had been given to say.

2Co 5:21

"For he [God] hath made him [Christ] to be sin for us, who [Christ] knew no sin; so that we might be made the righteousness of God in him [Christ]."

There seems to be an implied ellipsis, balancing off the two clauses, along these lines:

"God made Christ,
who knew no sin,
to be sin for us,
so that...
[ellipsis: who know no righteousness],
might be made righteousness in God."

What does this mean?

'God made Christ,
who knew no sin (as an individual, by his own actions),
to be "sin" (through his corporate head, ie Adam -- metonymy: cause for effect; undeserved, in group: cp Gal 4:4; Rom 8:3; Heb 2:14,15) for us...
so that...
[ellipsis] who knew no righteousness (as individuals, by our own actions),
might be made the "righteousness of God" (through our corporate head, ie Christ -- metonymy: cause for effect; undeserved, in group)!'

This may be seen also be reorganizing the clauses, along these lines:

Christ had nothing to do with sin by his own actions,
even as we have nothing to do with righteousness by our own actions.
But God made Christ to be identified with our "sin" (the nature we possess), as part of all mankind, though it was "undeserved"...
so that we might be identified with his "righteousness" (by being "in him"), as part of Christ's "body", though we don't deserve such "righteousness".

"Sin, I say, is a synonym for human nature. Hence, the flesh is invariably regarded as unclean. It is therefore written, 'How can he be clean who is born of a woman?' (Job 25:4) 'Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one' (Job 14:4). 'What is man that he should be clean? And he which is born of a woman that he should be righteous? Behold, God putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight. How much more abominable and filthy is man, who drinketh iniquity like water?' (Job 15:14-16) This view of sin in the flesh is enlightening in the things concerning Jesus. The apostle says, 'God made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin' (2Co 5:21); and this he explains in another place by saying, that 'He sent his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh' (Rom 8:3) in the offering of his body once (Heb 10:10,12,14). Sin could not have been condemned in the body of Jesus, if it had not existed there. His body was as unclean as the bodies of those for whom he died; for he was born of a woman, and 'not one' can bring a clean body out of a defiled body; for 'that', says Jesus himself, 'which is born of the flesh is flesh' (Joh 3:6)" (Elp ch 4).

"Jesus was 'made sin for us'. Besides being grammatically impossible [SCx thinks this is somewhat overstated, and would prefer: "very, very unlikely"], we must reject as futile... the suggestion that by 'sin' Paul in this place means 'sin-offering'. No, Paul means sin, but we must understand what is intended by the word. Christ was made sin in partaking of the nature in which sin reigns and which produces sin, and which therefore by metonymy is called sin. We may go further and say he was made 'sin' in enduring the consequences of sin -- sin not his own, for he did not sin -- but sin which has left its effects upon the whole race of mankind in bringing all under subjection to death. If we recognize how horrible in God's sight sin is, then we see how the effects of it are brought to a focus as it were in His own obedient Son" (CGal 75). Elsewhere, however, Christ is spoken of as an "offering for sin" (ie Isa 53:10).

"Is it likely then that Paul when writing to them [the Corinthians] would have used a Hebraism that had been avoided even in the LXX? Also, if Paul meant 'an offering' why not say 'made a prosphora (Gr: offering) for us'? He did in Eph 5:2, so why not here?" (SCx).

The Greek here is "hamartias", NOT "peri hamartias" (lit, "FOR sin", which would be the common LXX translation of "sin-OFFERING") (see "What is the 'sin' of 2Co 5:12?" in "Questions about the Atonement").

"Augustine (Sermons 134, 155) and others expound 'sin' to be 'sin-offering.' This use of the word is found in the Hebrew text of Lev 6:25: 'this is the law of the sin... the sin shall be slaughtered before Jehovah": Lev 6:30, 'every sin whose blood shall be brought, etc.' But it is not found in the LXX or in the NT; is in no way suggested here; and is forbidden by the contrast of 'sin' and 'righteousness.' Rather, the sacrificial use of the word is explained by, and is an anticipation of, this verse. The sacrificed animals were embodiments of sin" (JAB).

"Not a sin offering, which would destroy the antithesis to 'righteousness,' and would make 'sin' be used in different senses in the same sentence: not a sinful person, which would be untrue, and would require in the antithesis 'righteous men', not 'righteousness'; but 'sin', that is, the representative Sin-bearer (vicariously) of the aggregate sin of all men past, present, and future. The sin of the world is one, therefore the singular, not the plural, is used; though its manifestations are manifold (Joh 1:29). 'Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the SIN of the world.' Cp 'made a curse for us', Gal 3:13" (JFB).

"He made to be sin ('amartian epoihsen'). The words 'to be' are not in the Greek. 'Sin' here is the substantive, not the verb. God 'treated as sin' the one 'who knew no sin' But he knew the contradiction of sinners (Heb 12:3). We may not dare to probe too far into the mystery of Christ's suffering on the Cross, but this fact throws some light on the tragic cry of Jesus just before he died: 'My God, My God, why didst thou forsake me?' (Mat 27:46)" (RWP).

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